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Breaking down DeForest Buckner’s new deal

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Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The Colts made a huge splash in free agency by acquiring All Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. They spent a 1st round pick and then promptly signed him to a 4-year contract extension worth $84,000,000 with $39,378,000 guaranteed. The 1st round pick the Colts used on him allowed them to have no bidding wars and they controlled the negotiation and the price he signs at; it was not dictated by the demand of other teams.

Over the Cap has a breakdown of the contract, which is posted below, but let’s dive in deeper into the deal.

The first thing that should be pointed out is that this a front-loaded deal. A front-loaded deal is favourable for the Colts as they have a ton of cap space this year that they can use and that gives them more flexibility in future years. His cap hit next season is $17M, the second lowest of the contract, which is good as the Colts have the following free agents that are hitting the market: Ryan Kelly, Denico Autry, TY Hilton, Marlon Mack, Anthony Walker, Malik Hooker, Justin Houston and Jacoby Brissett. The friendly cap hit allows the Colts more room to sign the key players of that group.

The second thing that needs to be pointing out is that it’s essentially a 2 year deal worth 40.378M. The Colts are tied up with Buckner for two years, so unless they trade him (which they obviously won’t), he’s wearing a horseshoe for at least two years.

The third thing is that after the 2nd year, the Colts have essentially 3 years worth of team options. Team option is more of an NBA term, but what this means is that the Colts can decide whether to keep him or release him each year after the 2nd season of this contract. If the Colts were to cut him in the 3rd, 4th or 5th year of the contract, they’ll get hit with no dead cap hit.

The fourth thing is that although he signed a 4-year extension, it was added on to his 5th year option, so his current contract is worth 96.378M (over 5 years). This is purely a tidbit and has little effect on things.

The fifth thing is that Buckner’s contract has no signing bonus and all of his bonuses have been replaced by Roster Bonuses. The reason for this is that Ballard can allocate the bonus amount however he wants, whereas a signing bonus is prorated over the course of the contract. So while Buckner will not receive an amount up front, at the start of each new league, he’ll receive his roster bonus if he’s still on the roster and then his base salary will be spread out over the course of the season. Funny enough, Buckner will only make 1M (near the minimum) in base salary in 2021, which means he’ll only make $59,000 or $62,500 (depending on the 16 or 17 game schedule) per week during that season; better be smart with your money!

The sixth thing is piggy backing off Florio’s article, which says “Buckner will receive $56.378 million in guarantees of which $39.378 million is fully guaranteed at signing. The full guarantee is made up of Buckner’s 2020 salary and a $16 million 2020 roster bonus and $11 million 2021 roster bonus. If on the roster on the 5th day of the 2021 league year he will have his base salary for that year guaranteed and another $5 million roster bonus that becomes guaranteed. He has roster bonuses due on the 5th day of the 2022 and 2023 league year.”

To sum up things:

  • This contract is very team-friendly for the Colts.
  • It continues the trend of Chris Ballard offering Roster Bonuses instead of Signing Bonuses. He did this with Anthony Castonzo a few days ago and has done with most of his free agency signings.
  • Buckner, who’s made $18,190,990 in his career, will receive $11,000,000 in his bank account in the next few days. That’s a nice chunk of change for him. The California tax rate for people earning over a million dollars is 13.3%. In Indiana, it’s a flat rate of 3.23%. That means he saves $1.1M by signing and collecting the money in Indiana. Depending on the laws, he might need to be present in Indiana to sign that contract, so hopefully the coronavirus situation doesn’t hurt him for that.
  • The Colts currently have 45.6M left in cap space as of the evening of March 16th.